many irons in the fire…

OK first thing to tell you is that I have been thinking about writing blog posts, but haven’t made any good photographs lately, so not much happening here. But there’s been lots going on. 

Update on the rosewood applied turning project, (  )  We’ve known the Boston joiners sometimes used tropical hardwoods for applied turnings for quite some time. Never having worked wood like this, I spoke to many woodworkers – and heard all sorts of nightmarish stories. It’s crazy expensive (nope, these are small bits I need,10 1/2″ long. bought blanks from Woodcraft. Maybe $12-15 each for Bolivian Rosewood and East Indian Rosewood), it will dull your tools something awful (the Bolivian rosewood was not too much of a problem in that regard), you’ll need to wash the surfaces w some noxious chemical to get the glue to hold the parts together prior to turning. (nope again. I even used the cheater liquid hide glue in a bottle, easy and it worked fine), and you’ll need to scrape the shapes on the lathe, rather than shave/turn them. This I assumed on my own, based on reading Moxon on turning “hard” woods like ebony. Nope one more time. My turning tools were pretty sharp, but nothing extreme, worked fine. It was the nicest piece of wood I have ever turned. I did wear long sleeves and gloves, just to be safe. I don’t want to find out that I am allergic to these weird woods. It’s clunky turning w gloves on though…I could hunt down some tight-fitting cotton gloves. It is a museum after all…

turning Bolivian Rosewood on pole lathe
turning Bolivian Rosewood on pole lathe


I had wondered, after hearing all the stories, if the pole lathe could handle the program. I never should have doubted – when I think back to the 17th-century challenges it makes sense that turning these things shouldn’t be much different from working other woods on the lathe. I doubt these joiners and turners were going to a lot of trouble. I usually operate on the assumption that there was a straight-forward way to get this work done…


b rosewood turning blank
using the skew to finsh the maximum diameter
b rosewood finished turning
just about done on the lathe

I used a polissoir I bought from  Don Williams to burnish the piece while it was spinning in the lathe. Great stuff all around. Now, for tomorrow – the East Indian Rosewood. 

sawing EI rosewood
sawing the blanks
planing EI rosewood
truing for gluing

glue up EI rosewood
glued up w oak filler

I can’t wait to turn it. Sawing it was weird – it felt like iron. the teeth of the saw barely left a mark. But it cut pretty easily. Very fine dust though…I carefully swept it up.

The other day I went to the MFA to research and study a turned bedstead in their collection. It will show up here later in the month of March…

Today I went to the North Bennett Street School  to give the furniture students there a dog & pony show – and then wandered around the shop looking at all their work. And took a total of about 3 photographs – I was kicking myself afterwards for not shooting a lot of stuff. That place is an amazing visit. Chock full of furniture, parts, woods, books, tools – it’s great. I hope to go back before too long. 

NBSS overall
wall o’ legs NBSS
box o ball & claws etc
box o;’ feet


I forget if it was last week or the week before, but I taught a carving workshop at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking recently.   We had a great time (I did at least, and I think the students did too) – here’s a few shots:


cvsww wall of samples
CVSWW wall of samples
designing w the gouges
using gouges to mark out the design
I thought I had a lot of carving tools
I thought I had a lot of carving tools

dedham panel

leslie diggin the posture
Leslie diggin the posture


I’ll be back there in September for another weekend of carving. Bob Van Dyke supplied near-perfect quartersawn oak. Amazing stuff.

In the meantime, I am still hoping for students out west at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. Right now, it sounds like we need 6 more students for each workshop. Otherwise, these 2 classes will get cancelled. One is a week-long “make a joint stool” class… the other a 2-day class in carving. It would be a shame it we have to scrap it, the school and I have dedicated the time slot and can’t really make it up if it falls through.  I know time/money/logistics are all a concern for all of us. But I often get requests “When are you coming to X,Y, Z?” – I only get to come if we get students. I won’t harp about it again, just one last nudge if you know someone out that way, or wanting to visit out that way…dates are April 22-26 for the joinery class, and the 27th & 28th for the carving  


I have 2 more days to prep for my lecture/demos at the Winterthur Furniture Forum…  that’s what all the rosewood is about! 


8 thoughts on “many irons in the fire…

  1. Getting a few of the woodworking stores in Seattle to post a flyer about the class should have it filled up very quickly. Email a short note to them with a link to your blog of course and something they can print out and stick on the bulletin boards.. Start with Woodcraft, they sell lots of carving gouges, a whole long wall full of them. Also contact Hardwicks Hardware, they are a small family owned business and they carry lots of carving gouges and other tools. As your class would be good for their business I can’t see why they would not be OK with helping you out.

  2. I am really amazed that you had no problem gluing or turning it. What is a polissoir? An ivory burnisher? The denser stuff may b different. Some of these tropical hardwoods have abrasive grit in them. Some sawmills won’t saw them because they ruin the blades. I assume these pen and knife grip blanks I see on Ebay were sawn by hand, looking for figure. I, for one, am looking forward to your Winterthur workshop, 9:00 a. m. sharp on Wednesday.

  3. Pau Ferro (same thing) definitely glues and turns fine. If you can buy it in quantity, it’s cheap, much cheaper than woodcraft’s price. I have used it on tools and in tool handles. It works nice, and it doesn’t make me sneeze or itch, but for small shiny things (you know, people like their tools to look like jewelry) it’s definitely lacking a little bit in how it finishes compared to harder woods.

    But that’s no problem on furniture, and there’s no need to work anything harder or more expensive. My experience overall is the same, it’s cheap and easy to use. I guess people assume it’s a dalbergia and start attaching all of the caveats that apply to the “better” tropicals.

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